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Chapter 5: Discovery
Five hundred miles away from the hustle and bustle of Alcadon, across the Tabi Wetlands, and deep in the Olosos Grasslands, a small group of men and women toiled away. Each of them silently cursed their superiors for getting them shoveled away in this barren hole, this was the Kidjii Dig, and this was the worst punishment imaginable for these people. Being so close to both the Desert of Shiim and the Jungles of Khumret the days were hot, the nights were cold, sand was always to be found in unfortunate places and rain was as common as the dirt they were digging. The Kidjii Dig wasn’t a very high priority to the Department of Engineering and Archaeology, leading to a small staff and outdated or outright broken equipment. For these archaeologists and engineers there was no place on Earth they’d want to be less.
That night morale was through the floor. Rock bottom had a basement and they were sleeping on its floor. Multiple instances of equipment failure led to the whole day being scrapped while the engineers fixed the decade’s old equipment. Twelve men and women reclined in uncomfortable plastic chairs, eating nearly expired rehydrated rations, muttering to each other about what they’d rather be doing. The mood was getting mutinous, and the dig supervisor Dr. Lawrence Tryel knew that, and they knew he knew that.
“What are we even doing here?” one of the crew members, Dahn, mumbled louder than the rest, “we’ve been here three months digging a massive hole for what? Why are we digging here? What evidence is there to support that there are any artifacts or items of scientific or technological significance here in the first place?” She was now addressing Tryel directly. “Why, are, we, here? Please enlighten us Doctor”
Dr. Tryel stuttered for a moment, paused, let out a huge sigh and said “We are here based on nothing but vague rumor and incomplete data taken from mostly disintegrated documents and damaged computer cores. Normally this sort of thing would be completely ignored by anyone with an iota of sense but the higher ups still sent us out here anyway.” He looked around the room, “none of you volunteered, you were all assigned, right?”
There was nodding and grumbling from everyone there.
“Well I was assigned too, I want to be out of here as much as you do but the department heads gave me a job and I’m going to carry it out, find or no find. Now listen people, we can make this easier on ourselves if we just understand that not a single one of us wants to be here not even me. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to enjoy ourselves. Think of this as some sort of demented camping trip, you don’t have to deal with your supervisors, who I’m guessing are the reasons for you all being here, and you don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of Alcadon.” His eyes brightened as he was struck with an excellent idea. “And don’t worry, your reports are all going to be stellar, as soon as we get out of this I’m going to make sure that you get the highest marks possible for just putting up with this bullshit. Whaddaya say folks? A few more weeks of this and you’ll get the greatest reports of your careers, hands down.”
The prospect of an overwhelmingly positive personnel report helped to lift the spirits of the ragged crew, a good enough report could get them a transfer away from their overbearing supervisors. They went to sleep that night a bit happier than usual and Dr. Tryel went to sleep for the first time in days without wondering if he was going to wake up with a knife in his back.
Morale was up and the dig was moving along at an unusually fast pace, a shipment of fresh rations helped to lighten the mood somewhat too, anything was better than the dehydrated fruits and stale bread they’d been living off of. For the first time in months morale was higher than rock bottom. The dig these beleaguered scientists were working in was a large rectangular hole around fifty feet deep, with scaffolding criss-crossing over the depths to provide platforms for walking and to house lighting fixtures. A large vertical conveyer hauled debris up to the surface for analysis and disposal. Recently there’d been several artifacts that had churned up with the stone and dirt, lumps of decomposing plastic mainly but a fairly intact military helmet had been found. Rough dating placed the helmet back to the 45th century, it was one used by the ancient Americans in one of their interminable wars with the rest of the world. This caused quite a stir among the scientists, the 45th century was the time of the Indra, and perhaps some answers were to be found amongst the debris.
The drill had hit something, something large and metallic. A frenzy of activity began, everyone was in that hole, digging, chipping away at the fractured bedrock, the debris pile had to be cleared more in that one day than it had been in a month. Excitement swelled as they grew closer and closer until it emerged like a prehistoric monolith. It was a massive metal door, wide enough for two of their all terrain transport vehicles to comfortably pass through side by side. It was an ancient underground bunker, and judging by the few artifacts that had been uncovered, it was military.
“Get the acetylene torch down here right away!” Tryel called to the solitary crew member at the top of the excavation, he was most anxious to get inside. There hadn’t been a bunker discovery since the Sampras Dig almost a decade ago, just wait until those dusty fools at the department heard about this!
The cutting torch was lowered quickly and two men set to work cutting the hinges and the bolt. The wait was agonizing but after an hour of cutting the door was freed of its constraints, with the help of a rope and some elbow grease the door fell forward, landing heavily on the ground. Inside nothing could be seen but darkness, grabbing his flashlight Dr. Tryel marched inside.
It was pristine. By the looks of things the door had kept the entire structure completely airtight preserving everything inside. Papers that would normally have long turned to dust were as untouched by time as if they’d just been made. Careful not to disturb anything, or even shift the air lest these precious items disintegrate in front of them, the team set to work photographing and scanning everything. With the photographs and scans the team would be able to generate an interactive model of the find when they got back to Alcadon. Room by room they went, photographing and scanning, not a single detail was missed, artifacts not seen intact in years were found in abundance. Pocket computers, photographs, holographic generators, fast read data tapes, and storage drives looked as good as the day they left the factory. At the center of the maze-like complex was the control room in which was housed a massive mainframe supercomputer, this is what they’d been searching for.
Carefully sidling between massive storage banks and servers Tryel approached the computer control Hub. Crossing his fingers, Dr. Tryel initiated the startup sequence; a low humming could be heard from inside the machine’s housing. Lights throughout the bunker flickered and came on, one by one banks of monitors lit, at first dimly but quickly growing brighter. Letters and numbers filled the screens until just one word was left on the screens.
Looking down at his notes Tryel shakily typed in: USFTW1776
He’d always thought the password was a joke but it seems those particular rumors were indeed true, he’d have to thank Dr. Brummel when he got back, after gloating to him of course. Icons filled the screen, classified projects, blueprints to weapons, and all sorts of ancient knowledge was just waiting to be discovered, but there was one that drew Tryel’s eye.
This had to be it, this was the missing piece to the puzzle that was the Indra, finally mankind will know their secrets. He moved the cursor to the icon and clicked.
In the deepest corner of the complex the final rooms were being recorded, all that was left was one more behind a particularly hefty door.
“Hey, Roth! Could you give me a hand?” Jayce, one of the technicians called in a loud whisper to the other “This one is a bit more difficult than the others!”
The other technician, Roth, came over and assisted Jayce with pulling the door open. The squealing of rusty hinges shattered the somber silence that had rested on the team. Rust would indicate the presence of moisture; it seems this room had been breached at some point in the past. The rest of the group, save Dr. Tryel who was still indulging in the secrets of the Indra, converged on this unusual door. Though it was only open a crack a foul odor began to permeate the room and the adjacent ones before long. Jayce and Roth pulled the door open the rest of the way, the entire team behind them.
Flashlight pierced the darkness, the walls were red with rust and the floor was covered in nearly a foot of some sort of thick black tarlike substance that quickly began flowing out of the now open door. Something was wrong, something was horribly wrong. Flashlights scanned the entire room, it was completely empty. One of the beams focused on something floating on the top of the ooze, it was stark white standing out against the black. The shifting of the ooze moved the object, it rolled slightly revealing the hollow sockets of a human skull. Some of the team had already fled foul the smelling scene, some to retrieve the Doctor and others to just get away from the stench, the skull sent the rest of them packing, all but one, Jayce. With a seeming disregard for his own safety and sense of smell he waded into the room, there was something else hidden beneath the sludge, he could just see the outline of it poking through the surface. As he drew nearer to the object he could see it was a vaguely humanlike figure, perhaps it was a body, preserved in this sludge.
As he approached the object he could feel other smaller objects hidden beneath the sludge crunch under his feet, he bent down and picked one up, it was a bone. Jayce, now regretting his decision to enter this chamber from hell, crouched down to examine this thing, it couldn’t be human the proportions were all wrong, its waist was far too thin and it’s legs too long. The most startling thing Jayce observed was a complete lack of hands or feet, this thing’s arms and legs simply ended in a long spike.
“What the hell are you?” Jayce gave the thing a small prod.
With stunning speed the thing reared up and in one smooth motion impaled Jayce through both eyes and tore outwards shredding his skull and its contents into pulp. Jayce’s decapitated body slumped into the thick ooze; on all fours the creature exited the room that was meant to be its eternal tomb.
Back in the central control center Tryel sat engrossed and horrified by what he was reading, could mankind have been capable of such depravity, even then? A sharp scream roused him from his stupor, the scream quickly faded to a gurgle and then silence. More screams, noise surrounded him, each ending as sharply as they started, a rhythmic thumping could be heard pulsing through the complex. Mind numb in terror, he fled, he ran as fast as his portly frame could carry him towards the exit. As he rounded a corner he bumped into Roth, or what was left of him, he was nearly cut in two; only thin ribbons of flesh held his body together, his arms had been cruelly twisted around one of the pipes running along the ceiling holding him aloft to be ripped to shreds. Tryel bolted past the eviscerated body, the screams had stopped, all he could hear was his heart pounding in his ears and that same rhythmic thumping reverberating through the empty halls.
Tryel knew what he was going to do, he was going to get to the surface, get in an ATTV and get back to Alcadon as fast as the thing could take him, he was going to come back with an entire platoon and reduce this cursed building to scrap metal. He rounded a corner, it was a dead end, it seems one of the team also found that out the hard way, they seemed to have been exploded. The walls, floor, and ceiling was painted red in their blood, viscera dangled from the ceiling, all that was left of them was a pair of legs attached to a pulverized waist.
The lights went out, replaced by red emergency lighting. Tryel fumbled in his waistband to retrieve his flashlight, struggling to remember how to get out of this deadly maze. The rhythmic thumping had ceased, a shrill mechanical scream pierced the air, beneath it Tryel could hear another more human scream, sheer terror and then silence once more. The rhythmic thumping resumed, moving farther and farther away until it could be heard no more. Tryel shook himself from his freezing fear and resumed, taking small quiet steps, he must not be heard. Whatever it was that was killing his team could be anywhere, he must not be heard.
After what seemed like ages of wandering around, dead end after dead end he saw it, the Exit! The harsh industrial lights pierced through the murky red abyss, Tryel sped up but kept his steps silent, he must not be heard. As he crossed the threshold he saw the rest of the team that had made it out of the complex, limbs and torsos were arranged in small piles, some of them seemed to be arranged like ancient tribal effigies. Tryel quickly and quietly began climbing the scaffolding; fifty feet had never seemed so high, he could see the dark sky turning purple with the oncoming dawn, how quickly time seemed to move underground.
As he hauled himself up the final rung and onto the grassy earth he saw it, the creature, walking on all fours like some demented spider, its body laid flat suspended by its legs, and it’s head bent up to face forward. It was in the process of shredding the dig site, tents, and equipment; neither fabric nor metal stood a chance against this creature’s rage. Tryel let out a small gasp at seeing this beast, upon hearing him the creature’s head swiveled to face him, vicious cracking could be heard from its neck, its face, oh it had a face. As if chiseled from marble, a smooth impassive human face was bared outwards; its eyes and lips were jet black, contrasting with the sickly paleness of its fetid quivering flesh. The two of them stared at each other, neither moving, both studying the other, waiting. Tryel slowly began shifting towards the ATTV’s parked several yards away, all he had to do was make it.
“Medusa” he muttered under his breath.
A high pitched keening whine tore from the closed mouth of the creature. Medusa the Insane, the first Indra, the one never meant to see the light of day. Medusa, fast as lightning, drew up upon the Doctor, who was too stunned to move, and struck.
Chapter 6: Calamity
The dawn broke over another bitter cold night. The Tribe of Tchi’il Br’kan, the greatest Tcha’Gough leader to have ever run the Alcadon Plains, was on the hunt. A horde of grey skinned savages streamed across the grassy landscape searching for their quarry. A great herd of plains deer had been eluding them for several days, hunger and fierce savage will drove the Tcha’Gough forward against starvation. The survival of the entire tribe depended on this hunt, without this fresh meat they would surely starve. A savage howl rose from the front runners, fresh tracks had been found, less than an hour old! The pace quickened, faster and faster they ran. Several of the old and infirm who had been struggling to keep up fell behind and were trampled by the uncaring strides of those behind them.
The tracks led into a natural canyon, one entrance one exit, the stupid beasts had cornered themselves! The front runners began to whoop and holler with the joy of the hunt, their hunger forgotten; now they only thirsted for blood.
Madness and confusion followed as the whole tribe attempted to squeezed itself into the narrow canyon; several were crushed along the sides as too many bodies crammed into such a small space. A call rang out, louder than the rest.
“Stop!” The voice rang out; calming the manic Tcha’Gough, their leader Tchi’il Br’kan had spoken. “They, in there!” He gestured to the canyon, “we out here!” he gestured to the masses of his tribes people, “No escape! Only us!” he raised his arms up in a pseudo shrug. “We send few in there and scare prey to us, and we FEAST!” a cheer rose from the mass of grey skinned savages. “You group!” He pointed at a handful of the frontrunners, “Go! Li’ Djein protect you!”
The runners thundered into the canyon whooping and calling, taunting their prey. The deeper they went the steeper the walls became as they rounded the final bend the walls had curved inward creating an earthen cave. The pitiful amount of light creeping in from the rapidly rising sun revealed a total lack of prey, no deer, not a living thing in sight. The superstitious Tcha’Gough crept into the cave, confused at the apparent vanishing of an entire herd of deer; they scurried about the large opening and found no trace of anything. Could this be a trick by some lesser imp? Tricking the whole tribe into following tracks that weren’t there? The runners did not know why the deer seemingly vanished, but fearing the wrath of their chief they turned to exit but found their way blocked, a glowing white figure, skeletally thin had cornered them, weapons drawn. A wailing screech tore from the cornered Tcha’Gough’s throats, Scorn! He had come to kill them just as he’d killed countless before them!
Scorn was known to the Tcha’Gough, he’d killed countless numbers of them since long before the runners were born, tales told by the old ones said Scorn was responsible for the capture of their god, Li’Djein. No Tcha’Gough had ever fought it and survived, only Wulf the Hunter could possibly save them. Scorn advanced slowly, seemingly taking relish in his prey’s fright, step by step he drew closer. His prey retreated further into the cave until they were pressed against the back wall, hyperventilating and crying they got to their knees and prayed to their god Li’Djein to spare them. Scorn pulled an arrow from his quiver, he knocked it and…
He stopped, standing rigid he froze entirely. It was a miracle! The cornered Tcha’Gough, seeing an opportunity, dashed around him and ran at a full sprint to the exit; they’d gladly take their chief’s punishment over Scorn’s. After navigating the twists and turns, they rocketed out of the canyon entrance and threw themselves at their chief’s feet, cowering and wailing.
“Scorn! Scorn! Li’Djein spared us!” They cowered and shook on the ground.
The chief was taken aback, these were his best runners and were not given to mistruths, if Scorn was in that canyon and Li’Djein had spared them then it was best not to push their luck. He sat deliberating for a short while, no prey was worth what Scorn would do to his people, finally he announced “We Go! Find new prey elsewhere!” There were many grumbles and groans from the tribe, but all were well enough aware of the alternative. “We go, no-“ Tchi’il Br’kan never got to finish his statement as a glowing white shaft sprouted from between his eyes like a sick magic trick. As he slumped to the ground the shaft was pulled free by some unseen force, it passed through several more Tcha’Gough as it returned to the hand of its owner, Scorn had emerged from the canyon.
He laid into the shocked Tcha’Gough wreaking havoc in their ranks, wielding his short dagger and a loose arrow he killed no less than ten in his first assault. What he neglected to see was a large figure sprinting up behind him. Wulf reared up poising his massive bulk, bearing his massive cudgel down on the back of his nemesis’ head, a massive dent was left there as Scorn crumpled to the ground. A ragged cheer rose from the Tcha’Gough, Wulf the Hunter had saved them! Wulf bent down, grabbed Scorn and slung him over his massive shoulder like a ragdoll. He raised his hand in farewell, touched his open hand to his chest in the traditional symbol of apology and sprinted due south.
Eyes squeezed shut, Dr. Tryel braced for his inevitable death and… nothing, his death at the hands of a blood crazed Indra seemed to be delayed. He cracked one eye open and immediately recoiled in horror. Not two inches from his face was the pale impassive mask of Medusa, and a fraction of an inch from his left temple was its massive claw poised to add him to the body count. Medusa was completely still, frozen mid-stab as if some unseen force had restrained every muscle in its body.
Tryel not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, or continue looking at Medusa’s, quickly scrambled away towards one of the parked ATTV’s. Thank goodness they hadn’t been shredded yet. He rushed inside the large vehicle, booted up the nav computer, and set course back to Alcadon, maximum speed.
“Exceeding recommended speeds may increase risk of death or injury, do you wish to override the defaults?” A tinny computerized voice spoke from somewhere inside the console.
“Yes, you stupid machine!” He hamfistedly mashed the buttons on the touchscreen display. “Just go!”
The vehicle was off in a flash, wheels spinning and engines revving, Tryel was thrown backwards into the sizable storage bay. He didn’t bother to get up; he just laid there digesting everything he’d seen. The horrors he’d witnessed were too many to fathom, he’d seen human bodies twisted like dough in the hands of a baker, he’d seen things not humanly possible and yet there they were. He did what anyone would do in such a situation, he began to cry, huge ugly sobs heaved from his chest and tore from his mouth, wails of agony bounced off the bare walls of the vehicle.
“I’m an anthropologist! I’m supposed to be sitting in a library reading books about the past; I should be crammed in a hide somewhere watching primitives hit each other over the heads with rocks. I’m not qualified for this! I don’t want this! I don’t want this… I don~ whan~” The gravity of what he’d seen finally got to him, and he fainted.
The jolt of the ATTV stopping jostled Tryel into wakefulness, his fitful slumber had been plagued with nightmares. Hauling himself up into a sitting position he stopped for a moment to let blood drain to the rest of his body, a grey haze pulled at the edges of his vision for several seconds before clearing. After regaining his senses he put himself to the task of figuring out where he was.
Climbing into the cab of the ATTV he checked the navigation computer. Damn his fat fingers, in his haste to get moving he’d changed the vehicle’s destination to the small town of Khim. Well at least it was on the road to Alcadon, he prepared the computer to depart again until an ominous groaning resounded through the cab. Immediately panicked Tryel prepared to set off again, the groaning sounded again, it was so loud he could feel it, wait a second. He placed his hand on his stomach, another groan, well that explained that. Tryel was suddenly aware that he hadn’t eaten anything since that morning, was it that morning, or the day before? And found himself to be painfully hungry. Well, he was in Khim, there must be an inn open that’ll spare him some food, he rifled through several drawers and pulled out a few dirty coins, even better he’ll buy some food. He opened the door and set off toward the dimly lit village, bent near double with hunger.
The village was completely silent, unusual; normally a village such as this would have at least some activity, even this late at night. The pubs should be rowdy and bursting with townsfolk, and yet they were quiet. Tryel poked his head in a few of the empty establishments, nobody was there, mugs of ale and plates of food were still sitting at the tables. Curious, Tryel took a swig of ale and a bite of food from one of the empty tables, flat and cold; they’d clearly been there a while. Not wanting to miss an opportunity Tryel wolfed down the cold meat pie and chugged the half empty pint down. With his belly full he resumed his search for the missing townsfolk.
Building after building was devoid of life, a few times he’d seen stirring but it always wound up being a cat or rodent. After the fifth house he’d began to lose hope of finding anyone, how does and entire town just vanish? The sixth house gave him an answer. Upon opening the front door to the sixth house he felt it bump into something, stopping it from moving; he squeezed himself through the small gap to see if he could move the blockage. What he saw only confirmed his worst fears. It was a fashionable woman’s shoe, nothing unusual until you took into account that the woman’s foot was still inside of it. Tryel quickly shut the door and made to leave, Khim had no doubt been paid a visit by Medusa, and he wasn’t going to stick around to see the aftermath.
Tryel ran as fast as his legs could carry him towards the ATTV on the outskirts of town, the route carried him parallel to the town center and through the gaps in the buildings he saw what happened to the townsfolk of Khim. A red mountain of flesh was piled up in the middle of the town square, the men, women and children had been reduced to a pile of shredded meat. Tryel’s recently eaten meal threatened to reappear so he turned away and kept running, there was nothing he could do, even if he’d warned them it’s doubtful that they’d have listened to him anyway.
He turned the corner and the ATTV came into view, his footsteps thundered across the silent streets. He threw himself through the still open door and made doubly sure to set the computer on Alcadon this time. With the ATTV off once more Tryel huddled in the darkest corner of the storage compartment and waited, and wept.
Across the country, high up in the Schultz building, Laverne T. Schultz sat in his office twiddling his thumbs. Ever since his media address it seems like he was needed less and less as the situation began to spiral. Good god he was bored. The last bit of excitement he had was when the engineering staff found the bug in his elevator, that was close.
“Alright Marge, what’s the news?”
The sultry voice responded “I’m sorry sweetie you’ll have to be it bit more specific than that, there’s a lot of news, what do you want to hear?”
“How’s the crime rate?”
“Petty crime has increased by 25% while violent crime has risen by 67%, and the murder rate has quintupled.”
Schultz furrowed his brow “Disaster always invites disaster; I assume the prisons are full?”
“Fit to burst”
“We’ll have to bypass normal punishments; I’ll leave that to the judge’s discretion, just get people out of those cells. Have any spies been apprehended?”
“There have been a swarm of accusations but it seems most are false reports.”
“And the one’s that aren’t?”
“The police have them locked up and they are currently awaiting trial.”
“Televise them, and advise the judges and innocent is not an acceptable outcome. We need to send a message, to both the Sons and our own.”
“Drumhead?” Asked Marge
“Drumhead. The people need peace of mind, expedited judgment may just help with that” Confirmed Schultz.
What about gossip? Rumors, anything of note from abroad?”
“The Indra are on the move”, at this Schultz perked up, “there have been sightings of all known Indra with the exception of Ghost, but that’s not unusual. Apparently they have all been moving in the direction of Alcadon.”
“So they were true to their word, erm, how are people reacting to this?” He already had one panic on his hands he didn’t need another that he couldn’t control.
“People are mainly confused, though most are understandably skeptical; some of these Indra haven’t been seen in over fifty years. The only sighting with multiple witnesses was in a small trading post in the southern Knoss Wetlands. Nearly two dozen people witnessed Wulf actually carrying a struggling Scorn.”
“Hmm, so even he’s coming along.” He sat still for a moment, “Relay a message to LE, I need her to find Kid and direct all of our visitors to a place where they won’t be noticed, tell her my facilities are at her disposal, we already have enough trouble on our hands, we don’t need people getting any more ideas.” He sunk back into thought.
“Also, one more thing.”
“Hmm?” Schultz was clearly distracted.
“Neither the Kidjii Dig nor the Village of Khim have reported in several days, it is not thought to be a technical fault.”
“We’ll send somebody down later,” Schultz waved it off.